The hype around Jalen Suggs has been building for quite some time. As a high school basketball player, he had games broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. He was written up in national publications consistently.
Suggs arrived at Gonzaga as the No. 11 recruit in the Class of 2020, per 247 Sports. We all heard he was good, we all knew he was good, but it isn’t until we’ve been able to watch him in a game that we know he is this good.
And he also might be the difference maker as the Gonzaga Bulldogs seek out their first national championship in school history.
Suggs first collegiate bucket came 39 seconds into the game against the Kansas Jayhawks, and it is the perfect example of what he brings to the table.
Suggs would go onto finish his first college game with 24 points, four rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and just one turnover in 24 minutes in Gonzaga’s win. He did this while facing off against reigning National Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Garrett. Perhaps the only downside to his game was probably setting the Gonzaga school record for quickest first technical earned (also 39 seconds), which helped contribute to Suggs riding the bench with two fouls for half of the first half.
He was poised throughout the entire contest, and the adulation poured in almost immediately.
Jalen Suggs. Lottery.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) November 26, 2020
Jalen Suggs. Even better than advertised.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) November 26, 2020
Jalen Suggs is a total monster. Just destroying Kansas in ball screens. Great burst, but knows how to use his frame, play w/ poise. Threat to shoot. Can pass it. Obviously fearless finishing around rim. Very sudden in and out his crossovers. Completely took over late for Zags.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) November 26, 2020
Jalen Suggs finished at no.6 in the ESPN . The class of 2020 is one of the best I have seen in the last 10 years. Suggs had 24 &8 in his first college game against Kansas. Not playing like a freshman. @ZagMBB https://t.co/4MdGSSNDcc @JalenSuggs2020 @ChetHolmgren— Paul Biancardi (@PaulBiancardi) November 26, 2020
A debut as impressive as Suggs will do that to a national college basketball writer. Nobody is wrong either, off of just his game against Kansas, Suggs looked like a lottery pick. He looked better than college basketball. He played a complete game, picking apart the Kansas defense on dribble-drives to the hoop and demonstrating NBA range when given a foot of room.
Of course, one game does not make a trend. Against Auburn yesterday, Suggs had a quieter game, finishing with 12 points, four rebounds, six assists, one block, two steals, and two turnovers—a perfect game from your starting point guard. He was the perfect complimentary piece to Corey Kispert and Drew Timme who combined for 53 points in the blowout win.
Again, noting that we are a mere two games into the season, what Suggs brings to the table is often what Gonzaga has somewhat lacked in previous years—a brutally physical guard who can finish no matter what. Combine that with the overall skill level of a potential NBA lottery pick, and you get finishes such as this:
Suggs’ fearlessness and assertive desire to drive to the hoop at all times possible brings back echos of Jeremy Pargo. With the Zags operating such a fluid team offense, there is nothing wrong with having a playmaker of Suggs’ caliber—a player who can instantly create offense every time he touches the ball. With that as a threat for opposing defenses, how are you even supposed to keep track of Kispert or Timme?
Since 2000, the NCAA Championship has had at least one lottery pick in the subsequent NBA Draft, except for six years (2017 North Carolina - Justin Jackson went No. 15, 2016 Villanova, 2014 UConn, 2013 Louisville, 2010 Duke, and 2006 Florida). If the Zags win the NCAA Championship, Suggs is probably a guaranteed lottery pick.
Of course, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Suggs is a poised beyond his years, but he is still making the transition from high school to college, so there will be a few bumps along the way. Regardless of how weak the technical was he picked up against Kansas, he still picked up an unnecessary technical. His ability to drive to the hoop is unmatched on the Zags’ roster, but a couple of times, his one on three/four takes didn’t result with a field goal. Those will happen, and it is up to Mark Few and the coaching staff to coach those tendencies out of Suggs’ game.